Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature is an international database for musicological and ethnomusicological research, providing abstracts and indexing for users all over the world. As such, RILM’s style guide (How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style) differs fairly significantly from those of more generalized style guides such as MLA or APA.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Wigmore Hall International Song Competition 2011
19 Sep 2011

Wigmore Hall International Song Competition 2011

The Wigmore Hall is the most respected centre of art song excellence in Britain and its Song Competition attracts interest from all over the world.

Wigmore Hall International Song Competition 2011

Dorottya Lang with Mehrdokht Manavi, Stuart Jackson with Jocelyn Freeman, Jonathan McGovern with Timothy End, Dominik Köninger with Volker Krafft. Wigmore Hall, London 8th September 2011.

 

Sir Ralph Kohn, head of the Kohn Foundation which supports the Competition and many other philanthropic ventures, asks in his introduction “Is a competition essential to identify outstanding talent”? So often competition results are controversial, and don’t reflect what happens later in the marketplace, but at the Wigmore Hall, the emphasis is less on competition than on nurturing young talent. Kohn adds, “None of Wagner’s ‘Beckmesserisms’ in our search for the next young Meistersinger”.

The 2011 Jury included Sir Ralph, Bernarda Fink, Graham Johnson, Thomas Quasthoff, Malcolm Martineau, Sarah Walker, Richard Stokes, Jeremy Geffen and both the present and past Directors of the Wigmore Hall, John Gilhooly and William Lyne. Judgement, though, is not the primary aim, for those who participate are encouraged to develop their skills. No “winners” or “losers” here, for all benefit.

Standards are very high. This year’s competition attracted 170 applicants from 33 countries. Some of the curriculum vitae are very impressive indeed, many applicants having extensive experience in fairly prominent roles. Many have won prizes before, and are involved with young artist schemes in major opera houses.

First prize went to baritone Dominik Köninger who made his debut in 2004 and who has worked extensively throughout Europe. He’s appeared in Baden-Baden, Stuttgart, Munich, Hamburg and the Theatre an der Wien. Next season, he joins the Komische Oper, Berlin. He has an attractively burnished voice, and his delivery is refined. He and his pianist Volker Krafft chose a programme of introspective songs, rather than those with immediate dramatic impact. In a competition which emphasizes German Lieder above all else, this demonstrated his fluency in “inward” expression. Köninger has a nice way of eliding words so they flow, without compromising diction. At times he showed real beauty, such as the way he infused the word “Lindenduft” (from Mahler’s Ich atmet einen linden Duft) with expansive warmth, evoking the scented breeze.

Second prize went to Stuart Jackson, one of the youngest participants, who is still attending the opera course at the Royal Academy of Music. Almost as soon as he started singing, I recognized his voice, though I’d heard him only once before, over a year ago, singing a few songs at a private recital which included many very well established performers. At the age of 25, very few singers are quite so distinctive that you remember their voices immediately, though you’ve forgotten the name and face.

Jackson’s tenor voice has natural colour and agility, but more importantly, he uses it intelligently. He’s very sensitive to emotional nuance. He sang several Russian songs, but had prepared so thoroughly that he conveyed mood so well that you could understand meaning. Jackson seems to relish the Russian syntax, sailing through the angular consonants of Mily Balakirev’s Son. A soldier is dying, dreaming of home : Jackson conveys both darkness and tenderness, so the song is deeply moving even if you don’t know the words.

Plenty of volume, too, huge crescendi where needed, but achieved through careful modulation, projected effectively outwards. No barking here, no straining for effect, but good technical control. A very good Liszt Pace non trovo (Petrach Sonnet no 104) indicates that Jackson can act with his voice. Jackson has an extremely interesting voice, but it’s his sensitivity to meaning and expressiveness that will give him an edge Properly polished and nurtured, Jackson will be someone to listen out for.

Song competitions are as much about identifying potential as about what happens in the finals. Perhaps that’s why mezzo-soprano Dorottya Lang won third prize, for she was so frozen by nerves that she didn’t come across well. Maybe she was better in the earlier heats. Potential, certainly, in baritone Jonathan McGovern. Again, nerves caused problems, which is hardly surprising, given the pressure these singers and pianists were under. McGovern has a nice, deep timbre, but also uses his brain. He chose Poulenc’s Four Songs from Le travail du peintre, shaping each song as Poulenc wanted, to reflect the poem and the painter described. Especially effective, though was his Ivor Gurney Epitaph in old mode. English song often suffers from over pretentious earnestness. McGovern free, almost conversational style communicates far better.

McGovern and his pianist Timothy End were awarded the Jean Meikle Prize for a duo, End sharing the Pianist Prize with Jonathan Ware, who did not appear in the finals. End’s not easy on his singers, being rather dominant and fast, but he’s a good player. I was impressed with Volker Krafft’s playing for Dominik Köninger. Krafft is primarily a conductor, and part of the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artists Scheme, so his background is in voice,. He let his singer take precedence, shining in passages where the singer falls silent.

Thomas Quasthoff won an award, too, the Wigmore Hall Medal for outstanding contributions to the art of Lieder. The medal has only been awatrded once before, to Matthias Goerne. I was at Quasthoff’s very first Wigmore Hall recital, his London debut. It was a night to remember, and a reminder that relatively unknown singers can become major stars.

Anne Ozorio

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):